In the world of sports nutrition, the importance and roles of carbs and fats are often debated, but one macronutrient that everyone agrees is essential to peak performance is protein.
Protein dominates supplement categories and it’s the one macronutrient you’ll find on the plate of every athlete and physique-conscious individual. Yet, despite its importance and dominance, the subject of dietary protein is still plagued by myths and half truths.
Here are 5 of the most common myths worth correcting:
Myth #1: Animal protein is best
A new study conducted by researchers from the Hebrew Senior Life’s Institute for Aging Research and University of Massachusetts Lowell and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that both plant-based protein and animal protein build muscle equally well.
From 2002 to 2005, the researchers observed the muscle mass, strength, and bone density of 3,000 participants with varied dietary habits in the 17 to 72 age range. They found that while higher protein intake led to better overall musculoskeletal health, the source of dietary protein – plant or animal – was irrelevant.
However, because plant-based protein contains less harmful substances such as hormones, it’s considered the more beneficial source by many.
Plant protein can be found in wide range of supplements currently on sale, as well as many grains and legumes. Quinoa, brown rice and oats, for example, are great options, while good plant sources of protein include avocado, peas, lentils, soya beans, beetroot and miso soup. You can also snack on various nuts like almonds, seeds and coconut, which all have above-average protein contents.
However, to ensure all the amino acids required to deliver a complete protein profile are consumed, a broad spectrum of plant protein sources are required as many have incomplete amino acid profiles. Incomplete protein source can be consumed together to deliver a complete amino acid profile with each meal or throughout the day.
And to add to your growing list of options, insect protein is a rapidly growing trend in the health and fitness industry. This protein source in supplemental form offers upward to 54g of protein per 100g serving.
Myth #2: The anabolic window
Whatever your goal, be it to get leaner, slimmer, fitter, faster, or more explosive, you need to get strong first. There are myriad reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that modern life makes us weak.
It’s simply not true that the opportunity to ingest protein after exercise to maximise gains is limited to just 1-2 hours after training. Recent research has shown you have a wider anabolic window of opportunity than initially assumed, during which you can reap the physiological benefits of feeding your body with protein after training.
This is even more so when you’ve had a pre-workout meal or supplement, because the nutrients you ingested before training are often still being utilised in the hours after you visited the gym. However, when you’ve trained in a fasted state it makes sense to take in quality protein and amino acids directly after (or during) training.
Whatever the case may be, don’t fret about the time that passes after your final rep in the gym and your next meal. If you consume a highly bioavailable source of protein within a few hours after training, you’ll still halt the loss of muscle tissue and boost the repair process.
Myth #3: Endurance athletes don’t need protein
In the world of endurance sports, carbs have always been king. However, a growing science-backed trend has seen protein introduced into more endurance supplements as this combination offers athletes a performance benefit over carbohydrates alone.
This new generation of endurance products include everything from energy drink powders and gels to carb-protein bars. That’s because numerous studies now shown that a carbohydrate-protein drink can positively influence various physiological aspects that pertain to optimal recovery, including the mitigating the degree of muscle damage that occurs, the mediation of the inflammatory response, and a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness in athletes who consume these supplements during training and racing. This obviously has a positive, albeit indirect, effect on performance during subsequent bouts of exercise.
Myth #4: Whey is best after training
A clinical study entitled “Effect of Protein Blend vs. Whey Protein Ingestion on Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Resistance Exercise”, conducted by Dr. Blake Rasmussen and colleagues, suggest that a protein supplement blend of soy, whey and casein may be the best post-workout shake for building muscle.
Specifically, the blend of proteins in this study showed an increase in anabolism when consumed during the important post-workout “anabolic window”. The study confirmed that consuming a blend of proteins versus whey protein alone provides a prolonged delivery of amino acids to the muscles, making it optimal for consumption following resistance exercise.
Myth #5: Amino acids and protein are the same
Whey protein is the highest quality protein available, with the highest Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) and Essential Amino Acid (EAA) contents, and more leucine than any other product on the market. But can you drink these amino acids in their individual forms and get the same, or better results?
The truth is you actually get different results depending on whether you consume whole protein as opposed to amino acids. It is generally thought that the amino acid leucine may be largely responsible for whey’s pronounced anabolic effect. Out of the three BCAAs, only leucine was able to independently stimulate muscle growth.
While, we can expect to get some, though not all, of the effects from consuming each of whey’s constituent elements in isolation, whey also delivers other effects that are not generally derived from supplementing with isolated BCAAs, EAAs or leucine. That’s because whey also contains various bioactive peptides that act to enhance recovery and can potentially positively affect the adaptive process to exercise in other ways. These bioactive peptides are not found in EAA, BCAA .